How can we reduce or utilize scents, smells and pheromones to help animals feel more calm and comfortable with us during their stay in our care?
An animal’s sense of smell is one of its most powerful senses. Animals housed in centres are significantly influenced by the scents and smells in their environment.
Reduce or remove noxious smells:
- Choose cleaning products with little or no scent or odour
- Avoid use of perfume or scented personal products, as well as residual cigarette smoke. Recall the last time you were in an elevator with a liberally scented individual; animals confined in an enclosure cannot get away from a noxious scent
- Different species must be kept separate from each other because exposure to a predator’s scent can be a chronic source of distress for a prey animal.
- Alternatively, the predator is taunted by the scents of prey animals, but cannot exhibit normal behaviour of hunting
- Keep intact males and females within a species separate to decrease frustration resulting from being unable to respond to hormonal signals
Introduce favourable scents:
Lavender and Chamomile:
- Dogs exposed to the scent of lavender and chamomile spend significantly less of their time moving and behave in a manner suggestive of relaxation
- These scents also resulted in a lower level of barking than all other conditions.
- They are beneficial when used in indoor kennel areas
- These scents are also known to reduce levels of stress in visitors, which may encourage them to spend more time touring the facility
Rosemary and Peppermint:
- The dogs spend more of their time alert (i.e. standing, moving) than any of the other olfactory conditions
- These scents also encouraged a greater amount of vocalization
- These scents could be beneficial in outdoor kennel areas where more activity is encouraged
Scents can also be used for enriching the animals’ indoor or outdoor space or in many games and activities to provide an engaging and cognitively stimulating experience. For more ways to use scents as part of your daily enrichment routine, see “Scent of the Day” for cats and dogs.
- Pheromones are chemicals that animals produce which can affect the behaviour of other members of the same species
- They are believed to be universal across species and important in organizing social behaviour in animals, especially mammals
- It is clear that such substances have an impact on the behaviour of dogs and cats, and therefore might be useful in managing behaviour problems and reducing stress
The most common products are Feliway™ (CEVA) for cats and Adaptil™ (CEVA) for dogs.
- Contains synthetic cat pheromones that are calming in nature and therefore reduce stress
- Available as a diffuser, wipe or spray
- The diffuser has the advantage of reaching multiple cats in the environment and will last up to 30 days
- A synthetic copy of a dog appeasing pheromone that nursing mothers naturally produce to calm their puppies
- This appeasing effect helps dogs deal with stressful situations, such as new environments, separation from the owner or other causes of anxiety
- It is available as a collar, spray, or diffuser